Shaila Catherine is the founder of Bodhi Courses (bodhicourses.org) an online Dhamma classroom, and Insight Meditation South Bay, a meditation center in Mountain View, California (imsb.org). She has been practicing meditation since 1980, with more than eight years of accumulated silent retreat experience, and has taught since 1996 in the USA, and internationally. Shaila has dedicated several years to studying with masters in India, Nepal and Thailand, completed a one year intensive meditation retreat with the focus on concentration and jhana, and authored Focused and Fearless: A Meditator's Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity, (Wisdom Publications, 2008). She has extensive experience practicing and teaching mindfulness, loving kindness, concentration, and a broad range of approaches to liberating insight. Since 2006, Shaila has continued her study of jhana and insight under the direction of Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw, and authored Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana (Wisdom Publications, 2011).
Shaila Catherine gave the second talk in a four-week series titled "Cultivating Mindfulness." Shaila explored a number of ways to practice mindfulness of the body in the Buddhist teachings. These methods included (1) using our body as a way of grounding our attention in the present moment; (2) working with mindfulness of the breath as an aspect of the body; (4) working with sensory experiences; (4) reflecting upon death; (5) seeing the body in terms of the four elements (i.e., earth, fire, wind and water): and (6) observing the body as parts. Methods five and six allow us to view the body as material components, so we don't take our body so seriously. This in turn helps us to reduce our attachment to our body as "I" and "mine."
Shaila Catherine gave the first talk in a four-week series titled "Cultivating Mindfulness." This talk focused on using the breath as the meditation object. When we observe our breath, our mind is free from unwholesome states, such as anger, greed, or doubt, because we are simply connecting with the very ordinary experience of breathing. We are not being pushed or pulled by desire or aversion. In fact, when we connect with the breath, we experience ease and happiness.
Shaila Catherine gave the seventh talk in a eight-week series titled "Seven Factors of Awakening." This talk explores how the stability and the balance of equanimity can make our mind our friend, something that we can trust. When equanimity is strong, when there is pain, we won't tend to react with aversion; when there is pleasure, we won't tend to react with grasping and clinging. The mind will be balanced, present, and aware of experience as it unfolds.
Shaila Catherine gave the seventh talk in a seven-week series on lesser known Buddhist teachings titled "Thus Have I Heard." This talk revolves around a teaching in the Anuttara Nikaya, (AN 4:255) that expresses the Buddha's very practical advice for protecting one's material goods and wealth. He recommends that people 1) look for things that are lost, 2) repair things that are broken, 3) be moderate in consuming food and drink, 4) place a virtuous person in the position of authority.
Shaila Catherine gave this talk on planning tendencies of mind. Papanca is a Pali term that means proliferation. A lot of our planning is not preparation for action. Rather, it's a form of dukkha. Chronic planning may be a manifestation of anxiety, restlessness, worry, and obsessive thinking about who I will be. Planning is fuel for self-becoming, self-grasping. Restless planning perpetuates the fantasy of the future that we think we can control or predict, but it is a future that may never happen. Instead of habitually indulging planning tendencies, we can train our attention to be mindful of life as it actually unfolds. We can learn to calm the fantasies that distract the mind, let go of expectations, and gradually strengthen concentration so that we live more fully present. We can curb the tendency to become lost in imagined scenarios of hope and fear about how life's events may play out.
Shaila Catherine gave the sixth talk in a series on Recollective Meditations. This talk explores the practice of devanusatti — contemplating the good qualities that lead to happiness in this life and future lives. This practice emphasizes five specific qualities: faith, virtue, learning, generosity, and wisdom. One first reflects on the superior qualities of the devas, and then contemplates those same qualities within oneself. By contemplating the success of celestial beings, we might realize that success is also possible for us. This practice can inspire us to develop those beautiful qualities of heart and mind.
This is the 4th talk in a 5-part speaker series titled "Balanced Practice." Shaila Catherine explores the compassion of protecting others and the wisdom of protecting oneself through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness guards the mind and protects the mind from sliding into actions based upon unwholesome tendencies. Mindfulness also protects us from the unmindful actions that could easily cause harm. Mindfulness has a capacity of naturally drawing everything into balance, so the mind progresses with a balance of effort and ease, of tranquility and investigation, and of calm concentrated state and engaged state.
Shaila Catherine gave the fifth talk in a series on Recollective Meditations. This talk describes the recollection of the Sangha, reflecting on the virtues of a community of practitioners at various stages of awakening. This reflection uplifts the mind and reinforces those virtues, which in turn leads to the Path of awakening. When one recollects the Sangha, one's mind is not obsessed by greed, hate, and delusion. In addition, when we are temporarily discouraged in our practice, when we reflect on the Sangha, we can connect with a group of people who have been practicing the Path of awakening for centuries.
This is the first talk in a speaker series titled "Recollective Meditations." Shaila Catherine speaks about the meditation practice known as recollection of the Buddha, Buddhanusati. The practice involves the contemplation of qualities associated with the awakened mind. Each quality highlights a feature that the Buddha brought to perfection — in conduct, virtue, mental development, wisdom, teaching abilities, social influence, and mental powers. The reflection on these virtuous qualities of the Buddha establishes faith, confidence and inspiration for the path, deepens concentration, inhibits hindrances, strengthens joy, and refreshes the mind. It also serves as a classic protection against doubt. By contemplating the accomplishments of the Buddha, we may sense the potential for awakening within our own lives.
This is the first talk in a speaker series titled "Doorways to Insight." Shaila Catherine describes the importance that is placed on recognizing and contemplating impermanence. This is one of the three main characteristics that we observe in insight meditation practices. We see and know that things change. Everything is changing — thoughts, emotions, feelings, perceptions, sensations, tastes, and emotions. But when we don't see the impermanence of things, we tend to grasp and cling to them. We tend to want to make them to last, and thereby we identify and become attached. As a result of attachment, we suffer, because they are changing anyway. Can we see beyond things that change, and realize what is might be called changeless or deathless, to awaken with insight, to realize nibbana?